Archive for the 'Agonia' Category

That Ancient Serpent: Rules

2011 Jan 27

Over beers the other night, John mentioned my plans to hack Apocalypse World to create a crusaderpunk setting inspired by Rifts: Wormwood and the German post-apocalyptic angels game Engel. I’d honestly forgotten that I’d written this basic sketch up on the train, before starting Super Suit. Here it is:

Stats + Basic Moves
Those who have self-appointed themselves as the just and the righteous claim that their inner strengths – their faith, wrath, zeal, truth, fire, and love – are simply lesser earthly reflections of the attributes of God, magnified by His mortal servants. They also say that these same traits in the unjust and unrighteous are projections of human hubris, manifestations of the deadly sin of Pride. Were that this was so.

The basic stats are faith (cool), wrath (hard), zeal (hot), truth (sharp), fire (weird), and love (Hx).

  • When you place your trust in God (or man) in time of danger (act under fire w/faith)
  • When you cow your enemies with righteous fury (go aggro w/wrath)
  • When you shed blood together in glorious strife (seize by force w/ wrath)
  • When you enjoin someone with the rectitude of your cause (seduce or manipulate, w/zeal)
  • When you are shown the inner workings of the human heart (read a person, w/truth)
  • When you are given insight into the true nature of things (read a charged situation, w/truth)
  • When you soul is licked by tongues of flame (open your brain, w/fire)
  • When you love your neighbor or harden your heart against them (help or interfere, w/love)
  • When you suffer for the greater glory of God (or man) (take harm, w/harm taken)
  • When you are brought together by righteous suffering (heal someone or are healed, love grows deeper)

Character Creation
Choose your name
Choose your ethnic + religious heritage
Rather than picking a character type, pick up to three character backgrounds and then 3 moves, at least one from each background.
Roll to see if you have been exposed to the plague. Djinn do not have to roll, since they are immune.
Pick your Special for the list, based on what seems most appropriate.


Eye on the Door: escape w/Faith
Moonlighting: doing murders + cover
Ice Cold: Go Aggro w/Faith/Love
— Interfere with Zeal

Fortunes: surplus w/Fortunes
Prepared: Heal w/stock spent, 2-stock
Opportunistic: Interfere w/Faith
Prof. Compassion: Help w/Truth
Battlefield Grace: +1 armor when caring, not fighting

Moonlighting: honest work + one other
Things Speak: questions w/Fire
Bonefeel: arrive prepared w/Fire

Djinn (cannot be Infected)
Dang & Sexy: stun w/Zeal
Hypnotic: devotion w/Zeal
Perfect Instincts: Read Sit at +2
Breathtaking: +1Zeal

Healing Touch: Heal w/Fire
Frenzy: lead mob w/Fire
Charismatic: Manipulate w/Fire
Reality’s Fraying: Augury
Unnat. Lust: Seduce w/Fire
Whacknut: +1Fire

Half-Djinn (cannot be Djinn)
Art & Gracious: desire w/Zeal
Seeing Souls: Help or Interfere w/Fire
Spooky Intense: Act w/Fire

Infirmary: workspace for patients
Angel Kit: Heal w/stock spent, 6-stock
Touched by Death: death = +1Fire

Visions of Death: say who will die w/Fire
Arresting: auto-stun
Merciless: +1Harm
Impossible Reflexes: 2/1-Armor
Direct Brain Whisper: Go Aggro w/Fire, no interact
Deep Insights: +1Fire

Leadership: gang fights w/Wrath
No Shit Driver: stats while in car
Collector: 2 more cars

Wealth: surplus w/Wrath
Fucking Thieves: stuff w/Wrath
Easy to Trust: Seduce or Manip w/Faith/Love

Oftener Right: advice
Divine Protection: 1-armor
Moonlighting: honest work + one other
Insano: +1Wrath

Redeemed (must first be Infected)
Reputation: reputation w/Faith
Bloodcrazed: +1Harm
NTBFW: count as a small gang
Battle Hardened: Act w/Wrath

Battle Instincts: Open w/Wrath in battle
With proper tools, count as a small gang against dragons
Car is Tank: big, tough car
Optional Battle Moves (against dragons)

Fuck This Shit: escape w/Wrath
Pack Alpha: lead w/Wrath
Daredevil: +1Armor in danger
Good in Clinch: Act w/Truth

Lost: someone comes w/Fire
Deep Brain Scan: questions w/Fire
In-Brain Puppet: command w/Fire
Casual Recept: Read Per w/Fire, no interact
Reality’s Fraying: Augury
Pret. At-Will: +1Fire

Special: Hx+3/+1
Special: nullify
Special: Deep Brain Scan, auto-hit
Special: gotta go
Special: +1Forward/+1Forward
Special: 1-barter gift
Special: Help or Interfere, no interact
Special: gig to keep them happy
Special: Things Speak, auto-hit
Special: several options for influencing others (Skinner)

How to Portray Dragons
To summarize: cross nightmares, tyrannosaurs, and crows. Dragons are feathered dinosaurs (like what we now think dinosaurs looked like) with an aura of terror based on Arresting Skinner.

Dragons are alpha scavengers: airborne tyrannosaurs with a cold, avian intelligence, possessing both a raven’s nose for blood and its eye for hoarding shiny objects. They descend on sites of violence and death – battlefields, hospitals, abattoirs, freshly dug graves – like sharks in a gluttonous frenzy. But rarely do they start the carnage themselves, preferring instead to amplify mankind’s own bloody tendencies into a sickening cacophony of suffering, turning tragedies into abominations with their mere presence. Wherever the scent of blood or pestilence rises into the air or the flash of riches or clash of arms glints brightly, they will come.

Dual Harm/Infection Clocks
In addition to the Harm clock there is also an Infection clock for each character, including NPCs. When a character has taken Harm, they can choose to heal that Harm by trading it in for equal amounts of Infection. The contagion simply takes over the injured parts of your body and fixes them up, but it also takes them for its own, causing your to grow slightly monstrous. Removing infection is possible, but it either requires a supreme act of exorcism or burning the infection out with djinn-fire. Both of those typically require you to take more damage than the infection originally healed, so – if you’re at a high infection level – removing the infection may very well kill you.

Also, sometimes becoming infected isn’t a choice on the player’s part. Sometimes when you mess up a Harm roll, the MC can give your some of the Harm you were supposed to take as Infection.

That Ancient Serpent

2010 Dec 20

This post is going to be a work in progress, since I want to get back to doing incremental design on this blog, rather than in InDesign or on a forum. It is going to be a super-short, super-light hack of Apocalypse World, no longer than 2 pages in length, to handle the “outbreak of dragons” concept I posted earlier. Here goes:


Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a basilisk, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent. — Isaiah 14:29

It is currently after the Second Crusade but before the Fall of Jerusalem to Saladin. The draconic plague has come, spreading through the Levant from some mysterious source. No black wings yet fill the skies, but it is only a matter of time. Baldwin the Leper is King of Jerusalem, but he is growing more and more enfeebled from the plague that has kept him wrapped in bandages and largely concealed from public view. Rumors have it that he is molting off swaths of scaly skin and that his insides are writhing and transforming. It will not be long now. But the king is hardly the only one infected and, if a quarantine is not enacted soon, we may all very well perish in the fire that is coming. The red dragon has been loosed from the bottomless put, and this is surely the Apocalypse.

Add to Character Creation

  • English, French, German, Spanish, Byzantine, Born in the Holy Land, Persian, Egyptian, Arabian, etc.
  • Jewish, Christian, Muslim, other (Zoroastrian, etc.), or choose a more specific patron (i.e. the Archangel Michael).
  • Infected Human (choose 1 move from the Plaguebook), Uninfected Human (choose 1 additional move from any playbook), Djinn (choose 1 move from the Book of Flame; cannot become infected), Half-Djinn (choose 1 move from the Book of Flame; can become infected, but do not start play that way), or Redeemed (former plaguebearer who had the plague burned out of them by djinn-fire; cannot become infected; starts with a special move I haven’t written yet; based on Apoc from Wormwood)
  • Dragonslaying heritage (replace 1 move with a move from the Book of Slaughter) or no Dragonslaying heritage (take Hx+2 or Hx-2 with an old slayer family).
  • Make a list of slayer family names as options to pick from the name list

Special Playbooks

  • The Plaguebook: moves for the infected; once you start taking moves from this book, you can’t stop (though you can still take other moves too), and once you’ve taken 3 moves, you must switch to the book entirely; and the final XP option is turning into a dragon, becoming one of the GM’s threats, and making a new character
  • The Book of Slaughter: ancient techniques passed down by the slayer families for killing and quarantining dragons; must be learned from the families but can be taught to those outside the lineage
  • The Book of Flame: techniques for djinn and half-djinn, made as they are from smokeless fire; one can discover their djinn heritage during play, but these techniques cannot normally be taught to outsiders; however, those with highly advanced cases of the plague begin to spontaneously manifest fiery magicks.
  • The Book of Life: advanced techniques for those of extreme faith, drawing on their connection to God, the Prophets, and the angels; clergy may or may not have these gifts; see, for an example,

Normal Playbooks (all of these will simply use renamed existing moves from AW)

  • Knight: Templar/Hospitaller(first aid kit, like Gunlugger)/of Saladin
  • Warrior/Crusading Grunt
  • Assassin
  • Clergy
  • Noble

The great beasts simply count as gangs of various sizes depending on the potency of a given dragon. They also generally work like threats and have special threat moves of their own.

The Plague
Each major NPC in the game that becomes infected has their own countdown clock. You can guess what it counts down to. Non-named characters are simply treated as part of larger threats, which have countdown clocks that represent the spread of the plague in certain regions. There are, of course, plenty of threats that are not directly related to the plague, such as infighting and bureaucratic nonsense and people with the best intentions.

An Outbreak of Dragons

2010 Dec 18

I was just thinking about how to combine fantasy with body horror.

What if monsters are an infection?

So it’s late medieval times, the Black Death (that horrid outbreak of monsters) is long gone, and nobody’s seen a dragon in a century. However, there are a few families that keep practicing the dragon-slaying arts, teaching them to their children in case the wyrms ever return. But the siege weapons that were once used to bring down the great flying beast are all ancient and rusty. And with only 20+ people who know how to man them, half of them ancient themselves, and no officials manning their posts who know shit about how to conduct a quarantine after a dragon has been slain, nobody is ready for what’s about to happen.

Gravediggers and treasure seekers uncover part of a mummified dragon corpse deep in the desert, with the insides still fleshy and warm. Soon they are infected, turning into scale-covered beast-men with mouths full of fangs and a hunger for raw flesh. Many of them are slain in grisly street battles and entire cities are put to the torch and the sword, attempting to stop their spread, but it is too late. A few escape deep inside desert caves, where their scales molt off and their true form emerges.

The dragon-slaying families go to work, their rusty skills now the only chance of halting the disease. But they are hampered at every turn by kings and bureaucrats who think they know better or want to be heroes. When a dragon attacks Jerusalem and is finally brought down, no quarantine is declared, even though half the city is splattered with dragon blood. The sultan himself has the heart of the beast roasted and brought to him on a platter, the fool. Soon the holy city is teeming with monsters.

Somebody’s going to have to put an end to this, and nobody but the old slayer families and a few enlisted allies will do it. But that will mean enforcing the quarantine on their own, including killing some of their brothers, sisters, and kinsmen who become infected over the course of their messy job.


What Lies Beneath

2008 Sep 29

For Agonia, I decided I needed the equivalent of Wormwood’s crawling towers and Engel’s traveling pillars of fire. The idea is basically to have a “fantasy aircraft carrier” for the bag guys that moves around and serves as a mobile base for their assault on all things good and holy.

As I recently discussed in another thread, there’s something really disturbing about really huge architectural constructs, things that are way too massive for humans to have built in one or even several generations. Once a piece of architecture becomes timeless and unnatural, it hits right at the “civilization is the work of the devil” meme that’s pretty powerful. Lovecraft certainly understood that. Also, you can see its power in Brueghel’s painting of the Tower of Babel…

… as well as Stradano’s diagram of Dante’s vision of hell.

So I’m imagining areas where the ground has collapsed, revealing the secret buildings and passages that exist under the earth, where all the demons and other foul creatures have lurked unknown for millenia. I imagine that looking down into one looks something like this:

Characters’ efforts, then, are to close such openings or drive creatures back down into them or even venture down into them and destroy demons in their homes. And the players would collectively decide where these holes had opened up when the game began, with one of the default ones being right on (or next to) Jerusalem, due to the dark mystical workings of the Templars.

Visions of Agonia

2008 Sep 25

Josh Roby asked me about Agonia over on Story Games, and I said:

It’s the infected hellspawn of Wormwood and the German crusaderpunk game Engel, with WH and WH40K as kissing cousins… It’s Agon in Latin & Arabic with a demonic plague transforming the world, blackpowder weapons, symbiotes, sorcery, and wood-and-iron siege engines you wear like power armor. Scream your allegiance to the Archangel Jibril as you fire your Cordoban djinn-fire arquebus into the abyss.

Honestly, that’s not quite what the game does right now, but that’s what I want it to do, I think, by the time I’m done with it. But I also want it to have a flexible, somewhat-nebulous setting that the players collaborative create themselves, probably by gradually drawing it on a map over the course of the campaign, Geiger-style. Also, I think I want the Ghastly Inversion of Hellmouth Purgatorium to be one of the sample adventures.

Still pondering.

Updated Priorities

2008 Aug 21

Now that Geiger Beta is out, it’s time to take a break from that and give people some time to play it and make comments. Which means I can finally think about other things.

Dev recently said that he wants to play the Avatar game, which means I need to tweak it a bit. I might just end up blatantly stealing the fight mechanics from Mist-Robed Gate, because I think they’ll work mighty well. Then a few other tweaks and we’re off. The Avatar game still gets the most hits of anything on my website, so perhaps I should just release it through Bleeding Play in PDF form, once we playtest it a bunch more.

Push is definitely near the top of the list. I want to get the other articles from Push 1 up in HTML format on Bleeding Play, make the link to the PDF more prominent, type in the edits to her article that Em sent me months ago, and get Push 1 set up on Lulu so people can order print copies at cost. I also want to start getting some of the stuff from Push 2 up. Eero and Bill’s articles in particular are things I’ve been sitting on for many months. I just need to edit them, ask for a couple corrections from the authors, and post them up there.

Currently, it looks like Transantiago development may move to Secret Wars for a bit, since Shreyas has agreed to help me work on the passages from the rules that are supposed to be read aloud during play.

And then there’s Fingers on the Firmament, which I’ve been thinking about a ton and can’t wait to get to. Development-wise, I think it comes right after Transantiago, since Justin is still focused on getting the John Rain game done. It will rock some serious socks. Honestly, after playing 4th some more, I’m also interested in seeing the changes they’re coming out with for the GSL, on the outside chance that Firmament might be able to mine some of the better parts of the new edition. We’ll see.

Then, on the outside, things I still want to finish some day:
The Snow Queen

Class in Agonia

2008 Jul 11

Eric and I had a discussion yesterday about how to implement the class-based distinctions I was interested in having, but we haven’t really settled on a solution yet, though we proposed several. Help?

 me: basically, i think what’s going to happen is non-nobles roll their Master’s Name, as if they’re minions
  all their acts are for the glory of their lord
 Eric: Huh. So it’s an either-or, then?
 me: where nobles roll their own Name
 Eric: You have either a vassal die or a name die, but nobody has both..
 me: yeah, they’re functionally the same, but mostly color
4:40 PM i want to get at class differences somehow
 Eric: Why? Serious question regarding its functional appeal to you.
  Color? Shaping interpersonal conflict?
4:41 PM Something else?
 me: that’s a critical part of the crusaderpunk flavor for me, heirarchy
  the uncaring and largely incompetant state + religious bureaucracy
4:43 PM Eric: I think “state” is a bit of a misnomer, since the political system in Europse that you’re talking about can be justly described as institutionalized armed robbery, but more importantly, how does that inform play?
  If my vassal die and Sean’s name die are mechanically identical, I’m not sure how much I “feel” the difference.
 me: i’m not 100% sure, which is why the implementation is confused
4:44 PM there could be mechanical things, like only allowing nobles to roll Orate in conflicts to pick scenes
  or having debts work differently between nobles and commoners
  but i’m not sure if that’s worth the trouble
4:45 PM Eric: Off the top of my head, you might consider breaking the symmetry of the two. Maybe nobles get their name die to combat rolls, but not to ability rolls, and vassals work the opposite.
  The nobility is founded in monopolization of violence, after all.
4:46 PM And that certainly forces a hierarchy: the plebes are better at all the actually-useful, productive skills, but the nobles can bully them constantly.
4:47 PM So, the useful production of the nobility is face-stabbing others and not-face-stabbing you.
  The useful production of everyone else is everything else.
4:48 PM Thoughts?
 me: yeah, that sounds right
  i like the nobles in the group having leadership, but the peasants not being thrilled to assist them
  passing lots of d4s etc.
4:49 PM perhaps the nobles can chain-delegate Oaths to people who owe them Oaths?
4:50 PM Eric: Armed coercion is certainly a way to encourage dissent. While you’re at it, you could change the default scene-choice ability from Orate to something violent.
  Say, everyone picks their best Battle skill. The nobles bring in their name dice, since its a battle skill, and the peasants get hosed.
4:51 PM me: you could do something simple like allow the nobles the real power on choosing scenes but giving the peasants a bonus to refresh
4:52 PM like a +2 to all refresh rolls
 Eric: I feel like that’s pushing the theme of hierarchy away from play and into rules quirks.
 me: and nobles get +2 to Orate in scene choosing
  fair enough
  rules complexity is not what i want, necessarily
4:55 PM Eric: If your rules encourage me as a noble to bully or physically threaten my team-mates to get my way, then a hierarchy based on physical coercion is emergent through play. Regardless of implementation, I think that’s a good goal to shoot for: incentivize the nobles strongly to be bullies to their non-noble partymates.
4:57 PM me: right, and that works well because it’s a competitive game anyway
  inter-party resentment drives play
 Eric: That could be asymmetric glory rewards for challenging scene-framing (nobles get glory when they win, peasants don’t), bonuses to do so, both, or whatever, but yeah. Other asymmetric rewards would be things like bonus oaths.
4:58 PM Ideally, the peasants have something similar on their side, say bonus glory for craft-related successes or something.
4:59 PM Anyway, heading to a meeting.
 me: later, thanks
5:01 PM how about: peasant oaths to nobles are not cancelled until you help a noble actually succeed on a roll?
  so you can keep passing d4s, but you’re likely to stay in debt
6:29 PM Eric: Hmmm…
  seems very abusable to me.
6:30 PM You’d need to be careful about the rule.

First Play of Agonia

2008 Jul 10

Crossposted with Story Games

So we finally rocked out to my crusaderpunk Agon hack last night. The character sheet I used is this one (PDF):

Overall, it went very well. The things that worked were mostly Agon and the things that didn’t work were mostly some of my less-well-thought-out tweaks (Vassal Dice in addition to Name Dice, Bile, a few others). There was also some dissonance that happened because we kept trying to invoke the authority of half-remembered things John Harper once said on the internet, which is, unsurprisingly, a recipe for chaos. Also, I don’t think I had an appreciation of the parts of the game that are asymmetric. For example, the rules for taking Wounds (where multiple successes increase the level of the Wound, but not the number of boxes marked) and healing Wounds (where extra successes remove additional boxes of Wounds, and don’t have anything to do with the level of the Wound) make sense, but are slightly counterintuitive.

One thing I also didn’t fully appreciate is how long character creation takes in games like this. Granted, it’s meant for long-term play instead of most of the games I’ve recently been playing that are optimized for one-shots, but it made me wish I’d had time to pre-gen the characters beforehand, at least getting them half of the way done. That said, our characters were awesome:

Dan played an English Templar, since the knights across the Channel had not yet totally succumbed to the dark arts. He dual-wielded pistols to great effect and took his initial point of Affliction (corrupt demonic infections that give you kewl powers, which Templars start with) in additional wicked gun mojo. The Affliction rules were stolen directly from the cyberware/sorcery rules from Harper’s Shadowrun hack, but seemed to work well. I’m looking forward to seeing sorcery in play, hopefully in the future.

Eve played a Jewish scholar from Moorish Granata who served Raphael, the archangel of lore and healing, basically becoming the cleric in the group. Thanks to her, the crew racked up advantage dice to use against the evils they would encounter later, though we forgot to roll them in the one encounter that that were relevant in. The group will certainly be glad for them later, though.

Robert played the bastard son of a Spanish noblewoman who dallied with a charming Moor. He was a part of a mercenary company and had local connections that enabled the group to find a relative safe route into deepest, darkest Portugal.

Sean played a Persian noble sent from Baghdad to Toledo on a mission to uncover what the Templars were up to. In a contrast to most everyone else, he was clearly high society, into dancing and social events in addition to occasionally plugging foes with his ornate arquebus.

Eric played a Hospitaller from a craftsman background and, notably, pushed for creating tools and boxes with which to handle and safely transport the cursed demonic artifacts the Templars were reportedly bringing back from lands corrupted by the demonic Pestilence. This will indubitably be important later.

We threw down some initial competitions to determine starting Oaths (called Debts in this hack) and we were off… after about an hour or so of pre-game. Because it took so long to generate characters I ditched both the “campaign map” sub-game and TSOY-inspired rules for Keys, figuring we didn’t really need them right away.

To start, I said that Eric’s Hospitaller had heard that the Grandmaster of the Templars may have discovered the Holy Grail itself, but intended to use it for his own personal aggrandizement, rather than to fight the Pestilence. But the Pope and forces in the Papal States wouldn’t listen, so he’d come to Toledo to round up the locals he knew (the other characters) and try to gain support for seeking out where the Grandmaster had gone. This ended up being kind flimsy actually, since the players came up with much better reasons for being on the Quest in play and they ended up seeking out the missing Grandmaster themselves instead of enlisting aid from local authorities.

That may have been partially due to the local authorities having their own problems. A Christian army had recently taken Toledo, as part of the Reconquista, but the knights did not have any real experience governing cities, so, since the Pestilence’s jump across Gibraltar from North Africa meant that Christian Spain’s attention was elsewhere, they were negotiating with the local Muslim artistocracy to try to create some kind of governing coalition.

The first conflict, proposed by Sean or Eric, was over whether the characters could get themselves invited to the negotiations. Everyone succeeded, though Sean had to milk some other abilities to make it happen.

The second conflict, proposed by Eric, was over whether they could find someone who actually knew something about Templar activities. Through local connections Eve’s character nailed it by heading straight for the old man lurking in the background who happened to be the aristocracy’s chief manager of intelligence. The group learned that a Templar procession was seen heading down the dangerous road into deepest, darkest Portugal.

Portugal, I decided, had been repeatedly sacked and resacked during the Christian-Muslim battles of the Reconquista. Additionally, because gunpowder’s around in this anachronistic retro-future, Portuguese cities along the coast had been repeatedly blown apart with ship-mounted cannons. So it was a dangerous, lawless place.

The third conflict, proposed by Eve, was over whether they could do research to find out any information about what the Templars might be up to. She nailed this one again, learning that there were cursed demonic artifacts that masqueraded as sacred relics and that the Templars were wittingly or unwittingly collecting them. Those who succeeded in this roll got an advantage die against cursed demon artifacts.

The fourth conflict, proposed by Eric, was to equip themselves to properly handle and transport such artifacts. He used the new Toil ability to build some metal boxes and tongs and so forth, gaining another advantage die.

The fifth conflict, proposed by Robert, was to figure out the safest route into deepest, darkest Portugal. I spent an extra point of Strife here to make the journey potentially hazardous. Eric failed his initial roll, but called in a Oath from Dan, who saved him from falling into a ravine, sparing him a Wound. Robert triumphed, drawing on some shady local connections to secure an out-dated Roman map of the ancient roads and pathways through the mountains.

The group arrived in a rural Portuguese community, knowing that they were getting closer to their targets. The Templars, so they were told, had sacked the last village they came through. This next village, Valesca, had once stood beside an old Roman fort, but, after being sacked multiple times in efforts to take the fort, had rebuilt itself further up into the hills, leaving the fort unattended.

The sixth conflict, proposed by Eve and some others, was over searching the fort for signs of the Templars. She triumphed, finding bits of Templar armor and even pieces of Templars, hands that appeared to have been burned off the bodies. The group gained an advantage die over the creatures that did this and Sean described it as teaming up to build a water cannon, thinking that the beast was perhaps fire-related. There was some bickering at this point over whether building the water cannon should be a separate conflict, providing an additional advantage die, but eventually we just moved on to the fight, because people were getting restless.

The heroes decided to descend into the dark burrow at the center of the fort, triggering our first fight! Out of the shadows stepped 6 tattered former Templars with shadowy black tentacles coming out of all their facial orifices.

Dan stepped up first with his dual-wielded pistols, attacking with both hands. He managed to kill two of them right off, but discovered that I’d taken a version of the “Fiery Form” ability which allowed the creatures to automatically attack anyone who hit them in melee, before dying. His armor took one of the backlash blows from the tentacles, but he also took a 2-box Wound.

Then came everybody else, who attacked without many problems. Eve took one down, as did a couple others (I forget exactly who). Then the beasts counter-attacked, smacking Dan for a 3-box Wound because he’d assigned no dice to defense and his Armor was already a d4. Eric and Sean also took a 1-box Wound, but everyone else survived thanks to defense or Armor.

Next round, the group mopped them up, and Dan took out the last one, reserving some dice for defense this time from the tentacle backlash, but ended up failing and having to take it on his Armor (rolled a 4, thankfully).

Then we did a refresh. Robert and Sean invoked archangels. Eve was nice enough to heal Dan. Eric healed himself and Sean. Dan called for a couple of contests to remove impairment.

And then we decided to quit for the night, because it was 10:30 already. I was somewhat disappointed, since we didn’t even get to the really cool monsters that were coming later on, but I was happy that it had run reasonably well and that folks seemed to really dig the flavor. I’m going to make some changes to the character sheet in the future, but, overall, it rocked pretty hard. I just hope we can come back and finish this Quest.

Apok in Agon

2008 Jul 8

Finally figured out the Corruption rules for Agonia.

Corruption is Agonia’s version of Fate. It represents how much of your body and soul has been consumed by the demonic Pestilence. I originally though that Corruption needed a much longer track than Fate, but now I’ve changed my mind. The reason is that, in Agonia, Corruption can be healed by clergy, though it is difficult and you always end up with a net gain in Corruption over time. Basically, all the Corruption you’ve gained since your last attempt at purification can be halved, rounded up, at a given healing session. That’s all. So you’re healing 1 Corruption for every two points you gain, at most.

If you choose to be one of the Knights Templar, the demi-god equivalent, you can start the game with a higher level of Corruption, due to trafficking with the dark powers.

Higher levels of Corruption also allow you to invest points of Divine Favor in Afflictions, which are special attacks, maneuvers, and powers generated by the parts of your body that are consumed by the Pestilence. But, if your Corruption is purified down to a level that doesn’t support certain Afflictions, you temporarily lose them until your level of Corruption increases once again.

Those with high levels of Pestilence (the equivilent of at least a d10 in name) also have one other option, the Cherubic Purgation, a process by which three angelic hosts cooperate to destroy every speck of the Pestilence in a warrior’s body. It is extremely painful and many people (though not PCs) die in the process. However, resulting characters are horribly scarred all over their bodies, from both the Pestilence and the burning heat of Purgation; wear masks to cover such scarring and mark them as penitent, attempting to make reparations for their misdeeds; are especially tough, gaining natural armor; lose all Corruption and can never gain any more (losing all the benefits from marking off boxes of Fate); cannot retreat from battling the forces of the Pestilence; and are never merely defeated, but perish doing God’s work. Basically, the Cherubic Purgation gives Corrupted heroes one last chance to fight until they can fight no more, winning redemption or going out in a blaze of Glory.

Keys in Agon

2008 Jul 8

Through talking with Eric about how to make Keys work in a competitive environment, we came up with this. It seems right to call it “Hubris,” but that already has a designation in Agon, the kinda shakey rules for Bringing Down the Pain in non-combat situations. While I think that idea has potential, I think it’s unfortunate that such an important term got paired with mechanics that are less than stellar in play (both confusing and overly complicated). In any case, this is my second best choice for names, though it has a more Christian / Agonia connotation, thanks to Ecclesiastes.


The heroes are not merely passable warriors, but the best there is at what they do. However, considering yourself to be the pinnacle of human achievement in particular respects means that you often have to step up and prove your worth to would be challengers. That’s what these rules do.

Vanities are ideals that a hero strives to hold themselves to, despite whatever odds stand against them. They generally come in a couple different forms:

1. Tied To An Ability (“I am the greatest horseman who ever lived” / “The sweetest singer since Orpheus”).

2. Tied To A Personal Code (“I will never allow a child to come to harm” / “Ill-guarded riches deserve to be plundered”).

3. Tied to a Particular Quest. Quests themselves are already Key-like, in that you gain Glory for completing them, so you can’t tie Vanities to their completion. You may, when appropriate, tie Vanities to completing Quests in a particular fashion. For example, “We shall leave none of those foul demon-worshippers alive” or “By my honor, it shall be done within a fortnight.”

Vanities should generally not be tied to Oaths, as they are often fickle and fleeting in Agon, as one hero tries to gain advantage over another. If you owe someone an Oath, you owe them an Oath, but you don’t need to stake your entire purpose on repaying them.


Vanities are flags that the GM and other players should hammer against as much as they like. If you take the Vanity, “I will not allow a child to come to harm,” what you are effectively saying is put children in danger so my character can show off his devotion to their safety by protecting them. Or if you claim you’ll complete the Quest in a fortnight, you’re saying please place all manner of obstacles in my path, attempting to delay my journey, so I can speedily overcome them. When such a situation occurs you have three choices:

Choice A: Attempt to act in accord with your Vanity, as normal. Save the children!

Choice B: Stake part of your character’s valor on preserving their Vanity. Take a -2 to all rolls directly involving saving the children (in combat, this generally means a penalty to hit those who would harm children or a penalty to shielding them from harm, not to positioning, armor, abilities, and the rest). However, if you succeed in your Vanity, gain an extra 2 Glory (in combat, double the Glory you would normally get for killing Vanity-related foes), as you have proven your devotion and your deeds will thusly be remembered.

Choice C: If you have recently staked your valor on this Vanity and failed, abandon this Vanity. Maybe you will still try to save the children, maybe you won’t, but you’ve come to realize that it’s not as important to you as before; it isn’t what gives your life and deeds meaning. You gain 5 Glory and a point of Fate for abandoning a Vanity, as you grow in infamy and tragedy.

Quest-based Vanities are abandoned, without consequence, if the Quest is completed. If the Quest is abandoned, heroes with Vanities related to that Quest gain an additional point of Fate.


Characters can start with a Vanity, if their player likes. If not, they can be gained in play. This typically happens when…

1. Raising a Trait to d10 or d12. You’re pretty good at this. Maybe you’re the best there is?

2. When You Encounter Something That Offends Your Personal Code. Wait, let’s get this straight. There is a golden cow statue that is being transported on an unarmed ceremonial barge to the Temple of Zeus… and your group of heroes is not going after it? You’re appalled!

3. Taking on a Quest. Bah, you could complete this Quest blindfolded. Clearly you should up the challenge by claiming that you’ll complete it even more gloriously than required.